Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Wormworld Saga App is Out Of Service

I'm finally able to share detailed information about the status of the Wormworld Saga App with you. I wasn't able to do so earlier because I tried up until the very last minute before the launch of the latest chapter to solve at least some of the issues. It turns out that currently there simply is no chance for me to solve the problems that have hindered the proper maintenance of the app for several months now.

So, let's get the most important - and painful - information out to you first: 

Chapter 6 will not be published in the Wormworld Saga App and there will be no update to the iOS-version of the app to fix the severe problems the app has under iOS7. Actually, the app is going to be pulled from the app stores today. The reason for this situation is pretty easy to sum up: the app does not generate as much money as is needed to maintain it. 

But I want to go into a little bit more detail because the way things developed over time include some interesting insights for anyone who's trying to make money with a custom app. 

As many of you might remember, the development of the Wormworld Saga App was financed through my first kickstarter campaign in early 2011. I gave 8000€ from the campaigns profit to the Spanish app developer/digital publisher Robot Media to create the app. We knew right from the beginning that this initial budget would only pay for the very first version of the app. All updates and chapter releases were expected to cause further costs and in order to cover those I entered a revenue share agreement with Robot Media. 

The app turned out very nicely, even received a reward at an international digital publishing expo, and through the advertising on the Wormworld Saga website we were able to attract a steady stream of new users. However, I had to realize pretty early that my initial expectation about the amount of money the app would generate was completely unrealistic. The app made only a few hundred euros in the first three months and while there was some growth over time this trend generally continued. The app made a significant jump when it was featured on Google Play and attracted over 150 thousand new users over the course of one week. During that week, the app generated over 3000€ of revenue and I thought that this had to be the breakthrough. However, revenue plummeted directly after the feature and although the huge number of new users raised the revenue that came with each chapter release, the total amount was still below what I had hoped for when I based the project on the expected income from the app and quit my job. Over it's total runtime of 3 years, the app earned me about 7000€.

Now, I don't want to sound as if this is nothing. In fact it's good money. It means that I got nearly all the money back that I originally invested, which is cool. And today I would be totally happy with an app making a few thousand euros every year. Unfortunately, the app didn't only start to bring in money but it also started to cost more and more money.

The costs of the app - bandwidth costs, bug fixes, updates, chapter releases - are carried by Robot Media. For them, making the deal with me was a risky investment and while I was happy with a few thousand euros from the app every year, their much smaller share of the revenue put them in a tight spot. Actually I really have to be thankful that they kept the app going for as long as it went. The situation began to become a real problem when Apple released iOS7 which called for a lot of changes in the code of the app. And not only that. In order to submit an update for an iPad app now you have to provide retina quality graphic assets. All in all the new iOS would have forced Robot Media to invest several thousand euros worth of man hours to update the app. They don't have that money and neither do I.

I already can hear someone saying "why not ask the fans for help?" but I don't think that this would be a solution. As I wrote above, the general problem is that the app costs more money than it generates. In a combined effort we might be able to lift it over the current hurdle but operation systems are updated every few months and the effort to keep an app updated will only increase in the future. There's a saying about riding a dead horse...

What is the bottom line of all this?

I still love the app and it hurts me to not being able to maintain it. I think it's still the perfect way to experience the Wormworld Saga. I pretty early had to realize that the app wouldn't be able to carry my project and since then I've switched over to books and merchandize to keep the Wormworld Saga running. I would never have pulled the plug on the app if it hadn't been absolutely inevitable. I would happily keep it running even if it wouldn't bring in any money at all, but I can't run it when it actually costs me money to do so. My budget for the Wormworld Saga is tight. If there should come a time in the future when the Wormworld Saga actually earns me more money than my family needs for living, I will totally consider to revive the app.

Let's close this with some direct words to the customers of the Wormworld Saga App:

I really thank you for your contribution. By buying the collector's editions of the chapters inside the Wormworld Saga App, you supported the project and helped a big deal. I'm really sorry that the app doesn't work on more recent devices that run the latest version of iOS. The app will keep on running on older iOS versions though and you won't loose your in-app purchases. If you are interested in the special content of future chapters, I will continue to publish it in The Attic, the subscription based member's area on wormworldsaga.com.

I'm happy to answer any questions anyone might have in the comments here on the blog.


  1. Hello Daniel. I was one of the original Kickstarter contributors to WWS and the app. I was certainly wondering what was going on with this. While it's sad to see the app is no more, I understand it's all part of breaking new grounds: in the long run, some things work and some doesn't. I would have pulled the plug on an app of mine too if it ended up taking much more money to keep up than earning me money. Reading about these experiences is also important for me, since I'm currently facing a same situation as you did a few years ago (no job, some savings, want to itch my old scratch of finally making it as a comics artist).

    I'm fully aware that author-based work, unless you finally become a household name, is always a hard sell. And even being famous doesn't guarantee anything - one day you're the darling of the world and the next you are forgotten. But in the middle you got to find ways to make it work, if you are not willing to give up on your passion. Well, that's about it. Thanks for the update and glad to see WWS still goes on. -Alberto

  2. I wonder if the problems you speak of would also occur if the app would be more minimal. It’s been some time since I experienced it (iPad no more), but if I remember correctly you had a very complex, graphic-intensive interface. A bit similar to the wormworld website. If there were a very simple interface, built out of (retina-ready, in consequence) iOs bricks, don’t you think the hassle would reduce?

    Also: every tablet user can still enjoy the very same experience as they did with the app previously — simply in-browser. If »the story in your hands« metaphor is so important for you, you should advertise it more! everybody can add web-pages to the OS homescreens. And with a little help of responsiveness, I’m sure you can create a pretty good experience.

    I myself tend to rely less on native apps nowadays. It is convenient for you as an author, because you can design every pixel of the user experience, but most often that is what I, namely the user, actually try to avoid.

  3. Das ist schade und traurig und schade. Aber verständlich. Als Supporter der App möchte ich nochmal deutlich machen, dass es mir als Leser wichtig war denn Zeichner und das Projekt zu unterstützen! Und das hat funktioniert. Heute freue ich mich über Wormworld-Saga Bücher (Bücher!) und neue Kapitel der Saga und hoffe, dass sich dies irgendwie finanzieren lässt. Gerne bin ich weiterhin bereit für diese Arbeit und diese Geschichte zu bezahlen. Das eigentlich tolle ist doch, dass es klappt etwas kostenlos zur Verfügung zu stellen (Web) und trotzdem später damit zu verdienen. Auch wenn es harte Arbeit und ein schwieriger Prozess ist...

  4. Lieber Daniel, als Fan Deiner App und App-Developer kann ich mich Manuel nur anschließen. Du kannst eine App heute auch direkt aus dem HTML5 Deines "Attics" heraus produzieren. Vielleicht ist das einen weiteren Kick-starter wert die App auf neue Beine zu stellen, die mit weniger Umsatz auskommt. LG, Klaus

  5. I have never used the Wormworldsaga app. Similar to Manuel, I avoid custom apps like the plague. I don't trust them, and I will always prefer to load up something interesting in the browser of my choice.
    Some time ago, when you were blogging excitedly about the coming app, I thought you may be wasting considerable time and effort that might be better invested in developing the plot. I'm sorry to hear, though, that this approach of making some money didn't work out for you.
    Could it be that you've been targeting an audience too random and distraught? After all, some kid with an iPad finds your app interesting today, and tomorrow has moved on to another of a few thousand apps that are being promoted then.
    Have you ever considered something like e. g. www.patreon.com?
    I don't have personal experience with it, but another artist I find inspiring uses it.
    I sincerely hope you can generate enough revenue by donatins (and perhaps the book?) to continue your journey as a freelance artist. Your artwork is stunning, as proven just now with chapter 6. :)
    All the best!

  6. Thanks to you all for your detailed and encouraging feedback! It's true - practically the app survives in The Attic and it might only bea question of forming that content in a way so that it looks like an app when you open it on a tablet. I obviously have to put some thought into the whole matter and this will take some time. However, I'm definitely going to produce the special content for future chapters and as soon as there's a new home for that, it's going to move in there.

  7. I totally agree with Jan - "dass es mir als Leser wichtig war denn Zeichner und das Projekt zu unterstützen!" Thanks for being so honest Daniel - that's part of the magic and how you get support. And it must work...I've sponsored you again for the book on Kickstarter!

  8. Hello Daniel,

    I do find it a shame that you have pulled the app and will not support it anymore. I found it a refreshing & daring approach for an artist like yourself, more of the conservative artists/cartoonists/publishers should take example of this step and try to do innovations liek this as well..
    If I had seen your books in the shop I probably wouldn't have bought them immediately but as they were on an app I did take the jump...and boy: did that pay off!
    As a sidenote: as the fundaments of the app are there: isn't there a chance to share it with other artists so you can spread the costs?
    Anyway: I'm applauding the fact that you keep publishing the books fro free on your site with the additional payable content, I sure will do that. Hopefully you'll get the other chapters published in HD as well soon.
    I've supported your kickstarter campaign as well so hopefully that will be succesfull!
    Looking forward to the future installments of the book, good luck!

  9. I bought every chapter in the app so far and now I am back to reading the web version I could have had for free. bummer.

    Do focus on books in future, even if the format does not suit the Saga. Many, including myself, will not buy it digitally again...

  10. Hallo Daniel,

    eine in der Tat traurige Neuigkeit für alle Langzeit-Unterstützer und App-Fans der ersten Stunde. Allerdings reichen die Probleme über iOs hinaus: seit kurzem besitze ich ein Galaxy Tab S, und auch dort gibt es diverse Anzeige- und Grafik-Fehler, so dass auch die Android-Version ein Update bräuchte...
    Ich habe mir also jetzt The Attic angeschaut, musste aber feststellen, dass es dort keine Möglichkeit zur Bezahlung mit Kreditkarte gibt (PayPal fasse ich nicht einmal mit einer Kneifzange an).
    Und auch die Seite bräuchte dann ein Update - The Attic ist nicht mehr der Ersatz für Leute, die kein Tablett haben, sonder der einzige Zugang zu Sondermaterial...